Diary of a Fantasy Madman
The Value of Value PDF Print E-mail
Diary of a Fantasy Madman
Written by Zach Steinhorn   
Sunday, 04 October 2015 00:00

"That's a great buy" was a comment uttered numerous times inside the Mixed Auction Tout Wars draft room back in March, and while it's nice to receive compliments from your league mates, the reality is that no one really knows if a player really is a  "great buy" until the end of the season. So, as we head into the final weekend, it's time to revisit the theme of "great buys" and test the widely agreed upon theory that one of the keys to winning any fantasy baseball league is to make the best draft day buys. Here are my picks for the top- 10 buys at a price of $10 or less in this season's Mixed Auction Tout Wars league. Note that I have limited the pool to players that remained on the same owner's roster from start to finish. This way, we can get a better idea as to the impact the player made on the owner's final place in the standings.

1. A.J. Pollock ($9 to Cory Schwartz) - A popular breakout pick, sure. But even the most optimistic of Pollock supporters could not have predicted a top-10 finish in runs, steals and batting average.

2. Chris Archer ($10 to Zach Steinhorn) - He's faded in the second half and September has been especially rough. But seriously, how could I complain about what I've gotten from Archer this year?

3. Andrew Miller ($2 to Tim Heaney) - Entered the season as the likely eighth inning man for the Yankees. Finishing the season as a top-5 closer.

4. Francisco Liriano ($5 to Tim Heaney) - The oft-injured southpaw has recorded his highest innings pitched total since 2010. And then there's the career-high 205 strikeouts.

5. Kendrys Morales ($3 to Zach Steinhorn) - My plan was to nominate Morales for $3 and pull out of the bidding once it got to $10. Instead, I was pleasantly surprised to hear crickets. I expected a bounce back season, but I'd be lying if I told you I expected what I got.

6. Carlos Martinez ($1 to Patrick Davitt) - Has emerged as one of the top young arms in the NL, though his shoulder strain needs to be monitored during the off-season and into spring training.

7. Noah Syndergaard ($0 to Patrick Davitt) - Struggled at times but dominated more times than not. All in all, a pretty good first 24 big league starts, don't you think?

8. John Lackey ($5 to Patrick Davitt) - Continues to be one of the most overlooked yet reliable starting pitchers in the game. At the age of 36, his 2.69 ERA marks a career-best.

9. Danny Salazar ($3 to Scott Swanay) - Aside from a mediocre 4.76 ERA and 1.45 WHIP in September, there aren't a whole lot of negative things we can say about this guy. He could emerge as a fantasy ace as soon as next season.

10. Josh Reddick ($1 to Zach Steinhorn) - I strongly considered both Ken Giles ($6) and Scott Kazmir ($5) for this spot, but ultimately, Reddick's $1 price tag made the difference. I really had no expectations for the A's right fielder when I purchased him in the endgame. Fortunately, he managed to finally stay healthy while delivering 20 homers, double-digit steals and a useful OBP. Not quite his 32-home run season of 2012, but solid nonetheless.

So, how well does the best buy theory hold up here? Fairly well. As of Saturday morning's standings, every owner who made one of these picks with the exception of Patrick Davitt ranks in the top-5. On the other hand, Davitt made three of these picks and currently sits in eighth place. But Patrick did occupy a top-3 spot for a good chunk of the season, and the pitching trio of Martinez, Syndergaard and Lackey surely had something to do with it.

Although a larger sample size would paint a clearer picture, I think it's safe to say that all of us should continue to strive for those "great buys."


Last Updated on Sunday, 04 October 2015 08:48
Making Their Pitch PDF Print E-mail
Diary of a Fantasy Madman
Written by Zach Steinhorn   
Sunday, 20 September 2015 00:00

After devoting last week's column to second half hitting leaders, I'm not about to ignore the pitchers. So let's check in on some of the notable players that rank among the second half leaders in the five standard rotisserie pitching categories entering play on Saturday.

Joe Kelly: 8 Wins (Tied for 4th in MLB) - Kelly throws hard, but he's always been more of a pitch to contact, ground-ball specialist than a high-strikeout pitcher, which limits his fantasy appeal. Kelly's overall results have been mediocre at best over the past two seasons, but during a seven-start stretch spanning from early-August to early-September, the 27-year-old went 7-0 with a 1.86 ERA and 1.19 WHIP. Kelly left Tuesday's start early due to shoulder tightness and the Red Sox have decided to shut him down for the remainder of the season, though he's expected to be fine for the start of spring training. Still, I'm not convinced that he will ever rise to the level of a reliable mixed league option. Maybe you throw one dollar his way in a non-mixed auction next spring and then cut bait should he struggle out of the gate.

Shawn Tolleson: 19 Saves (Tied for 1st in MLB) - It's the same old story every year. A waiver wire reliever is given an opportunity to close early in the season, thrives in the ninth inning role and holds onto the job through the end of the year. The challenge for fantasy owners is to guess right and use your precious FAAB dollars on Tolleson rather than Brett Cecil. Having notched 32 saves in 34 chances to go along with a 2.71 ERA, 1.10 WHIP and 71 strikeouts across 66 1/3 innings, Tolleson has done more than enough to open the 2016 season as the undisputed stopper for the Rangers, and he could offer solid mid-round value.

Clayton Kershaw: 104 Strikeouts (1st in MLB) - What a surprise. At a position where player performance is so tough to predict from one season to the next, Kershaw remains as close to a sure thing as it gets. At 27 years of age, there's little reason to expect a considerable performance level decline anytime soon. I'll never be the guy who drafts a starting pitcher in the first round, but I wouldn't blame anyone who plans to be that guy in 2016.

Justin Verlander: 2.79 ERA (9th in MLB: minimum 60 IP) - Not too long ago, Verlander was the "sure thing" among starting pitchers. Then came a decent but not great 2013 season followed by a brutal 2014 campaign. And this year didn't start out too well either. But since the All-Star break, the former AL MVP and Cy Young Award winner rather quietly has registered a 2.79 ERA and 0.96 WHIP. I'm curious to see how the market values Verlander in 2016 drafts. Maybe he's no longer a fantasy ace, but there could be some profit potential here.

Marco Estrada: 0.94 WHIP (6th in MLB: minimum 60 IP) - Estrada has been a popular fantasy breakout candidate for quite some time now, so I'm not surprised to see him enjoy a breakout year. I am surprised that it has taken him this long. Expecting Estrada to rediscover the strikeout promise he showed earlier in his career is probably wishful thinking at this point, but he doesn't hurt himself with walks, which is always a good thing. Although the 32-year-old deserves to be drafted in most mixed leagues next spring, his pedestrian strikeout rate combined with the likelihood that this season will be as good as it gets from an ERA and WHIP standpoint makes him someone who I would settle for rather than target.


Last Updated on Sunday, 20 September 2015 09:15
Signs of Things to Come? PDF Print E-mail
Diary of a Fantasy Madman
Written by Zach Steinhorn   
Sunday, 13 September 2015 00:00

While it is true that second half success isn't always an accurate predictor of future success, post-All-Star break splits are something that many fantasy baseball owners (me included) take into consideration when preparing for drafts each spring. Was there a clear reason behind the statistical surge? How likely is it that the player will carry over these gains into the following season? But, we have all winter to ponder that question. For now, here's a look at some of this year's top second half performers within the five standard rotisserie hitting categories heading into Saturday. Note that I'm using Hits instead of average.

Carlos Gonzalez: 24 Home Runs (1st in MLB) - Something strange has happened this year. Car-Go has actually stayed healthy, and while his current .270 batting average is well below his career mark of .290 and he's not stealing bases anymore, his 37 homers place him 2nd in the NL, behind his teammate, Nolan Arenado. Owners who took a chance on Gonzalez this year certainly netted a nice profit, but he still went for $26 in Mixed Auction Tout Wars, far from a bargain basement price. Considering his lengthy injury history and his guaranteed higher price tag next season, I won't be a Gonzalez owner in 2016.

Josh Donaldson: 57 RBI (1st in MLB) - I'll admit it, I wasn't targeting Donaldson at all in drafts this year, and it wasn't because I didn't think he would have a productive season. Now with the Blue Jays and playing his home games in a hitter's park, maybe he would improve upon last season's .255-29-98 line. But judging from draft results, the market was valuing him as if he would significantly improve upon that line ($32 in Mixed Auction Tout Wars), and I wasn't so sure about that. As it turned out, the market was right. With three weeks remaining in the 2015 regular season, Donaldson is the favorite to win the AL MVP, and I will never doubt him again.

Xander Bogaerts: 73 Hits (1st in MLB) - Bogaerts struggled throughout much of his first full season in the big leagues last year, but he is finally showing why he was such a highly regarded prospect. The Red Sox shortstop is batting .346 in the second half, this after hitting a not too shabby .304 prior to the All-Star break. My concern with Bogaerts from a fantasy perspective, however, is that outside of average, he doesn't offer much. The good news is that he will be only 23 on Opening Day 2016, so an improvement in the power department isn't out of the question.

Curtis Granderson: 43 Runs (5th in MLB) - Yeah, Granderson has benefited from a much-improved Mets offense in the second half, but the reality is that the veteran outfielder is rather quietly enjoying a tremendous season, both in real life and in fantasy. Not only does he rank 6th in the NL in runs (86), but Granderson has posted his highest on-base percentage (.362) since his career-best 2011 campaign. And then there's the 23 homers and 11 steals. The four-year, $60 million contract the Mets handed to him following the 2013 season doesn't look so crazy after all.

DJ LeMahieu: 11 Stolen Bases (7th in MLB) - LeMahieu opened the 2015 season on the waiver wire in most mixed leagues, but it wasn't long before he became a must-own player. The Rockies second baseman will finish the year with career-bests in every standard rotisserie category, and I didn't even realize before looking it up that he's still only 27 years of age. As long as he remains a Rockie and continues to play half of his games at Coors Field, where he's a career .319 hitter, LeMahieu will carry plenty of fantasy appeal as a middle infielder who can hit for a high average and steal 20-plus bases.

Second half success might not always be an accurate predictor of future success, but since most fantasy owners have short memories, the second half leaderboards tend to significantly influence the draft stocks of certain players. So why wait? Decide right now whether or not you're willing to invest in these guys next season.

OK, you don't have to decide right now.

That's what the next six months are for.  

Last Updated on Sunday, 13 September 2015 07:27
Just Don't Do It PDF Print E-mail
Diary of a Fantasy Madman
Written by Zach Steinhorn   
Sunday, 06 September 2015 00:00

In all my years playing fantasy baseball, I don't remember being involved in a title race that is as close as the one in Mixed Auction Tout Wars. Heading into Saturday, seven points separated fourth place from first place while there were four points between third place, my current standing, and first place. And, when factoring in the happenings of the past month or so, this isn't even that close. Not too long ago, single-digit points separated first from seventh. For most fantasy owners, me included, second-guessing is a part of the game, and this is especially the case in a league as tight as Mixed Auction Tout Wars. What move did I fail to make that could prove to be the difference between winning the league and falling a bit short? But, dwelling on missed opportunities is pointless, so I'm not going to spend any more time regretting what I didn't do. Instead, since I am an optimist by nature, here's a look at several moves I didn't make that I'm thankful I didn't make. After all, it's important to remember that doing nothing can often turn out to be the right choice.

Trade for Desmond Jennings - It was April and Jennings already had five steals through his first 13 games. Since Jennings had always been a favorite of mine (maybe this would finally be his year?) and I came out of the draft somewhat weak in speed, why not go after him? I tried, and I think I actually offered Josh Reddick for him, but trade negotiations ultimately broke off. Soon after, Jennings would land on the DL, missing three and a half months before returning in mid-August only to return to the DL last week.

Drop Derek Holland for a $2 FAAB redemption - Tout Wars has a rule whereby drafted players who are placed on the DL can be released in exchange for his draft day price in the form of FAAB dollars. Holland, a guy who I targeted in all of my drafts this year, made it through only one inning in his first start of the season before hitting the DL with a shoulder injury. His return timetable was unknown but he was not expected back until at least July, so I could have easily moved on. But really, what's the value of two FAAB bucks in April? Not much. Thanks to the Tout Wars roster format with unlimited DL spots, I opted to hang onto him. Since returning, the Rangers southpaw is 2-0 with a 2.53 ERA over three starts, including a three-hit shutout last week.

Trade Cameron Maybin for FAAB - I don't think it's a stretch to say that this would have been the biggest blunder made by any owner in the 2015 Mixed Auction Tout Wars league. But, after purchasing Maybin for $15 during the first FAAB period, it only took a few weeks before I became fed up with his ice-cold hitting and his outfield timeshare with Eric Young Jr. I sent out a message to the league saying that I would be dealing either Maybin or Michael Saunders for the highest FAAB offer. I accepted a $3 offer for Saunders. The highest offer for Maybin was $1.

Trade Francisco Lindor for a very low price - A middle infield logjam (Kolten Wong, Elvis Andrus, Neil Walker and Lindor for three starting spots) was bothering me so much that I was determined to deal Lindor. And I wasn't really expecting a whole lot in return for the recently called up shortstop, who got off to a slow start at the plate and was known more for his defense than his bat. A message board note stating that Lindor was available to anyone in need of middle infield help went unanswered. What followed was a .295-4-14 month of July, and sometime in the early part of a .370-2-12 month of August, I inserted my reserve round draft day selection into my starting lineup at the Utility slot. He's been there ever since.

Win the Edward Mujica FAAB bidding - Mujica did save 37 games as a member of the Cardinals back in 2013, so when it became clear that he would take over closing duties for the A's following the trade of Tyler Clippard, I figured that he would do a fine job. And since I needed a third closer, my $13 bid seemed reasonable. Fortunately, I came in second in the bidding, five bucks behind Patrick Davitt. Mujica would earn only one save for Oakland before losing the ninth inning gig. I got Rafael Betancourt for $2 instead, and while that was a bust, a $2 bust isn't nearly as damaging as a $19 bust.

Look, over the course of a six-month season, every fantasy baseball owner is going to make a number of mistakes. But before getting too down on yourself, take a few minutes to list the mistakes that you didn't make.

You will feel a lot better.

Trust me.

Last Updated on Saturday, 05 September 2015 23:11
A Lesson in Semantics PDF Print E-mail
Diary of a Fantasy Madman
Written by Zach Steinhorn   
Sunday, 30 August 2015 00:00
For as long as I can remember, I've always been the one who others go to when they have any questions related to game rules, whether it be board games, real sports, or fantasy sports. I guess you can say that over time, I built a reputation as both logical and detail-oriented, and I like this reputation because it is true. I actually enjoy reading directions, or in the case of fantasy sports, reading league constitutions or even writing my own list of rules for the many leagues in which I have served as commissioner through the years. And that's why what happened this past week in Mixed Auction Tout Wars was so unusual.

In fact, the whole thing would not have happened if Patrick Davitt did not receive a $5 FAAB redemption for Anibal Sanchez, who is currently on the DL due to a rotator cuff strain and could very well be shut down for the rest of the season by the out of contention Tigers. To review, Tout Wars has a rule where any drafted player who lands on the DL can be released by their team and awarded their draft day price in FAAB dollars. If released prior to the All-Star break, owners will receive the full amount. After the break, the redemption amount is cut in half. Anyway, upon scanning the year-to-date list of players who were released in exchange for a FAAB redemption, I noticed Adam Wainwright had been released by Patrick back in April for $19. Then I remembered that Patrick had purchased Wainwright for $1 in the most recent FAAB run. Then I remembered a Tout rule stating that owners who received a FAAB redemption for a certain player must pay at least the amount of the redemption in order to re-acquire that player. Hmm. Shouldn't Patrick be docked an additional $18 then? So I sent an e-mail to Peter Kreutzer (aka Rotoman), who handles commish duties for our league, asking for clarification. As it turns out, this little rule even stumped me.

Peter's response: "The language in the constitution is unclear. It says an owner must bid the amount he was redeemed, which Patrick did. It doesn't address what actual price he must pay or the Vickery adjustment, so I think we have to live with the usual process here."

"I've put this on the list for offseason rules discussion."

Sure enough, here's the rule, as worded in the constitution:

"For any team owner to reclaim a player he previously redeemed, he must bid at least as many FAAB units as he reclaimed originally."

Ultimately, Peter and I agreed that the rule needed to be modified in some way for next season, as it didn't make a whole lot of sense that an owner could receive a FAAB reimbursement for a player and then re-acquire him for a lesser price. We blamed the Vickery system for the confusion. I have always preferred Vickery over straight FAAB because it adds a fun strategic element to the game, but scenarios like this one certainly expose its flaws and have me questioning my allegiance to Vickery. Honestly, I wouldn't be surprised if Tout Wars abandons Vickery sometime in the near future, as there seems to be a growing anti-Vickeryy sentiment within the industry.

But, Vickery tangent aside, I guess the moral of the story is that as much as you might think you know all of the rules, sometimes you don't. And for commissioners, it is very important to make sure that the wording in your league's constitution leaves little room for misinterpretation.
Last Updated on Sunday, 30 August 2015 08:23
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